As the Editor-in-Chief of gal-dem, Suyin Haynes holds a lot of responsibility. She looks after the day-to-day coverage, editorial strategy, editorial partnerships, and anything else that crops up. In her own words: “it’s amazing, challenging, rewarding, demanding, and everything in-between”.
We caught up with her about why no journalist has an average day and why she wouldn’t go back and change anything about her inspirational career journey, even with the power of hindsight.
My Day Starts At…
My working day starts at 9:30 am but in my morning routine, I like to get up at about 8:30 am to make sure I have a bit of a stretch to wake up the muscles, the body, and the mind. Sometimes I do one of those 10-minute meditations on the Calm app if I’m feeling a bit frazzled. Generally, I work from home. I usually try and go into the office in Bethnal Green about once a week to get a bit of social interaction. Wherever I am, I always make sure that I have a cup of peppermint tea to start me off. If I’m feeling a bit wild I’ll have lemongrass and ginger, but I’m very much a herbal person.
"I like to get up at about 8:30am to make sure I have a bit of a stretch to wake up the muscles – and wake up the body and the mind."
Suyin Haynes, Editor-in-Chief at gal-dem
I Always Thought I’d Be…
When I was a kid, maybe like a lawyer or something? Something that involved words and arguing a bit, fighting my corner – and fighting other people’s corner more accurately. But I never really thought, “oh, I really want to be a journalist”. I’d always like reading magazines, putting words together, and writing stories but hadn’t, you know, expected that this would be my actual job.
It’s just such a thrill to be able to do that. It is such an honour and a privilege as well. It’s really hard because I think there’s sometimes so much expectation to have it all figured out and have a plan and know what you want to do and how you want to do it. For me, still, when I graduated uni, I’d still had no idea. Sometimes I’m like, I’m still figuring it out [now].
The Thing Which Surprises Me Most About My Job Is…
I started this job in July 2021. Before this, I was a reporter at Time Magazine for five years. I was both based in London and Hong Kong so reporting from here and there. Before that, I was actually involved in gal-dem [during] its inception in 2015. I was doing copy-editing and helped make the first magazine.
gal-dem was my first introduction to journalism – then going away for five years and getting a completely different experience in a completely different organisation. Coming back here, and seeing just how much gal-dem has grown, how impressive it’s become… Not that it wasn’t impressive before, but how much we’ve punched above our weight with the tiny team that we have.
I’m just constantly learning new things every day. I’m just always being so impressed at the way in which our company has managed to grow and survive and thrive through the last six years – and through the last two years of the pandemic.
Suyin (L) and a print edition of gal-dem (R)
My Typical Day Involves…
Well, no two days are the same. I’m sure that probably everybody that you’ve spoken to for this series has said some version of that phrase before (ed. yep, you’re very right). The main thing that we start with at the beginning of the day is a morning editorial meeting. I ask the team to bring ideas – what have they seen in the news that day? What have they just seen on Instagram, watched on TV or retweeted? What should be on our minds – whether we decide to cover it or not – it’s things to be aware of and things to discuss. Having those meetings is really important.
In the world of remote working, I’m always checking in with the editors that I manage across the five different sections, there to support them, whether that’s through generally having a social chat, or supporting with editing a piece. Probably about 80 percent of the content on the site, I’ve read or had some sort of involvement in, and then 100 percent of it I bear overall responsibility for. I think I trust my editors completely, they’re also brilliant. There’s always so much more left to do at the end of the day that I don’t get around to.
I Got The Job Because…
I think a part of it has been sort of the reporting experience that I’ve built up over the last five years. Devoting and dedicating my career to telling underrepresented stories has been what I’ve always done (or tried to do) with empathy, care and sensitivity. I had never envisioned myself in this role because it’s such a lot of responsibility and [some] things I didn’t quite have a great deal of experience in.
But I think having been with gal-dem at the start, having a real understanding of our mission and values and being part of our community [helped]. I think it’s definitely helped me adapt in that way. But I think you’d have to ask my boss why I got the job! You know, just being completely aligned with what we do, I think is really important for a workplace like ours. So much of the work is about identity and values and telling these stories in the ways that they should be told and by the people that should be telling them.
I’m Most Proud Of…
I’m really proud of the reporting that I did when I was with Time Magazine, about the “me-to” movement in Asia. Reporting those sorts of stories is really meaningful to me. I’m also proud about last year, 2021, the second year of a pandemic. So scary, right? As people, we’re not really used to change, or we’re creatures of habit.
I just felt like it was time to make a change in my career and to apply for this role. I’m proud of myself for doing that because I didn’t even think I could get this job. So, to take that leap of faith and to make a big change and work for this organisation is completely different to my previous job. It felt really right. I’m proud of that and I’m proud of the work that my team has been doing here to continue building this community.
If I Was Starting Again…
You know, hindsight is such a beautiful thing. Life takes you on so many sorts of different paths that you didn’t expect. I don’t want to say “hashtag no regrets”, or whatever. But I do think, all the choices and decisions that I’ve made and things that I’ve done, have made me the person that I am today.
So, it’s quite hard to say if there’s something that I would do differently because I don’t know what that would look like. There have been mistakes that I’ve made, but those mistakes have been important things for me to learn from.
gal-dem: Addressing inequality and misrepresentation in the industry.
gal-dem is a new media publication, committed to telling the stories of people of colour from marginalised genders. With both a print magazine and online site, they platform the creative and editorial work of the community across essays, opinion, news, arts, music, politics and lifestyle content.
The best way to support gal-dem is to become a member. Not only will you be helping them to continue to take up space in the industry, you’ll also get carefully curated perks from their team including monthly events, discount codes and weekly newsletters from their team.
I’d Be Wary Of…
I think attitudes are changing now. But I think a massive barrier for me, when I was thinking about what career to pursue, was [stuff like] “oh, I need to, spend a lot of money on a journalism master’s degree, or I need to have loads of internships and work experience to even think about getting a job”.
I think just being really conscious of the fact that there’s no one route into journalism, there’s no one route into the industry. Especially, somewhere like gal-dem we work with people from all different walks of life. I think the majority of us who are on staff don’t have a journalism degree. I’d be wary of folks who say there’s only one way in because there’s not there are so many different ways in.
If people wanted to follow in my footsteps, I’d say…
I would say to always stay humble, open-minded, and willing to learn from other people because we’re never done learning. Having that curiosity and empathy for other people is so so important in this job. I think it is just important in general, really. Those sorts of qualities like, never thinking that you know, best, or everything. Always being open-minded and willing, to learn and understand different points of view, because that’s what storytelling is about empathizing and being compassionate and sensitive.
"I think the majority of us who are on staff don't have a journalism degree. I'd be wary of folks who say there's only one way in because there's not there are so many different ways in."
Suyin Hayes, Editor-in-Chief, gal-dem
The Thing I’d Most Like To Change About The Industry Is…
I think, in the UK media industry, there’s such an issue with career trajectories for young Black journalists and journalists of colour. It’s not just in the UK, actually. It’s great to have staff at the junior level, [but also we need to be] thinking about progress and how folks of colour and marginalised communities can progress in careers. Having more people of colour of marginalised genders at the decision-making table, I think is super important.
I think that really is changing. And I think we’re also, you know, proving it. gal-dem, Black Ballad, Novara Media and other places are proving that we can actually build our own systems too, and I think that’s really exciting. There are so many things I’d like to change. That’s probably like ten things wrapped up in one.
Okay, well, tonight, I’m going to go swimming at my local leisure centre, which I’ve not done in a really long time, but I’m trying to do a bit more exercise. Even though it’s freezing outside but the pool is indoors, thankfully! I usually try and keep it quiet during the working week.
I think the pandemic has forced everyone to slow down. For me, that’s been quite a good thing. Not rushing and not being so hectic and frantic and making plans every night of the week. Just taking a bit of time to you know, take care of myself and go swimming.
Inayia Angel Beddelem
Inayia Angel joined the Journo Resources team in winter 2021 and focuses on original features. She is a budding broadcast journalist, with a vision of using her lived experiences to voice the unknown. She has a passion for creativity and diversity. and to uplift the voices of people from different backgrounds.
Inayia-Angel has freelanced for outlets like the CPAG and JfKL and is a campaigner for social change. Outside of Journo Resources, she is part of running a creative network for foster care leavers, Care Creatives, hosts her own YouTube channel, curates events, and contributes to podcasts. She was recently awarded The Jack Petchey Award.